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Table of Contents for "Seven
Principles Collection of TLT Ideas"
The seventh principle is
'respecting diverse talents and ways of learning.' Students
are different from one another. In different ways, each of
them needs "the opportunity to show their talents and learn
in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to
learning in new ways that do not come so easily."
ways has technology been used in your courses or at your
institution that, directly or indirectly, help all students
learn despite their differences and/or in ways that take
advantage of their differences?
Have you had success with a technique or tool you don't see
here? something a few other faculty would love to hear
tell us about it.
You don't need to be the first - just the first to share the
PS. We've written
a short article
summarizing techniques that faculty can use with technology
in order to recognize, respond to, and even take
instructional advantage of the many differences among
I utilize web quests and multimedia
presentations as a way to infuse the curriculum with
diverse viewpoints. American Indian students can develop
a culturally-relevant project that often will leave a
lasting impression on the non-native classmates. Other
students will examine topics from the perspective of
women and minorities. In short, the assignments
encourage students to make sense of the past through the
lens of their own life experiences. The full impact of
these interpretations become apparent when the final
presentations are made. Editor's Note: Here's
a page on webquests.
Technology has really allowed me to act
upon the idea that student's do not all need to be
sitting in class doing the same activity. Students can
be offered choices of activities depending on their
learning styles - simulated case studies, videos,
computer-aided instructional packages, and other methods
can all be offered during the same period. But the best
method I have found to look at "diverse talents and ways
of learning" is to allow students to pick from a menu of
possible assignments. I have done this using Howard
Gardner's Multiple Intelligences: students can pick from
a menu of assignments, but need to choose assignments
from four out of eight "intelligences". The students
love it, and I find their enthusiasm contagious.
Here's a link to a good introduction to Multiple
We offer students many ways to present
material and make a point. From research papers written
in html to access to audio, video and scanning, we
encourage students to tell the story their way. Our new
laptops for fall will have multimedia software on them
as well as the usual software. Our Senior Portfolios are
a good example of the diverse talents of our students.
Editor's Note: Portfolios can provide more
flexibility for assessment when different students do
different kinds of work or projects to satisfy the same
We have evolved from the 5-paragraph
essay into multi-media presentations and from static
poetry into a web page w/ sounds and images illustrating
one's poem. This allows all students -- even those with
lower proficiency in writing, grammar, vocabulary, (like
ESL students, for ex) to draw on their strengths, beef
up their weaknesses, and shine. At the same time, we
need students to adhere to an expected level of academic
discourse and culture, and this evolves with exposure to
a diverse group of classmates and instructors who
Additionally, the use of extensive
animation in PowerPoint presentations can take a static
figure from the text and make it dynamic; some students
have expressed their need to "see something happen" in
order to learn best, and indicated that this animation
makes a difficult-to-understand diagram in a textbook
come alive for them.
Self-discovered readings allow for
differences in interest, information seeking skills and
available resources. Every course includes a requirement
to link with a practicing professional in the field for
which the student is preparing and interview that person
in preparing one or more assignments. These
professionals are self-discovered, allowing each student
to choose someone he or she admires (which may differ
greatly from person to person). The student composes the
questions (around a theme) so their prior knowledge
determines the depth. Mode for gathering responses and
presentation methods to the class are the student's
choice. Effective communication is the shared criteria.
In my writing courses, the oral
presentation offers students a chance to depart from
written prose to present their knowledge in ways that
may include demonstration, visual aids, audio aids,
multi-media, tactile experience, and more. provocative
presentation through other means.
Some students are eager to learn new
skills, some are afraid to make mistakes and hold back.
I try a teamwork approach as often as possible and try
to balance out traditional and contemporary methods,
give both equal weight to the outcome of a studentís
Provision of all class materials,
including lecture presentations, on-line has led to
reduced class attendance but no lowering of success on
evaluation instruments. I conclude that providing
maximum on-line content, and a non-punitive approach
toward class attendance, results in students who learn
best in class coming to class and those who do not - or
who learn better outside a classroom setting - not
wasting time in class. Editor's Note: On the
other hand, I've heard several faculty over the years
say that they've given students a choice: study
together, or study alone. They then compared the grades
of the two groups on later exams. Each faculty member
telling the story reported that the "study together"
students outscored those who preferred to study alone.
It's certainly the case that some courses are better
studied together (even by students who would prefer to
study alone). I don't know whether that's true for all
Providing maximum course content via the
web has resulted in students choosing the learning
method best suited for them. Students who come to class
seem to be those who are well adapted to that mode of
learning, while those who do best working through a
presentation at three in the morning can take that route
Technology provides me with the ability
to provide students with many options with respect to
how they can learn. Students who are group oriented
attend the many technology labs that are scheduled with
my TAs, and can use the communications tools we provide
them in Blackboard. Students who require flexibility, or
prefer to deal with problems on their own, can work
entirely from home--downloading lectures, using the
course CD and showing up only for oral exams.
I strongly believe that the subset of the
population that learns best in a traditional classroom
is significantly over-represented in our current higher
education student population. This is almost inevitable
- a result of self-selection OUT of people who could not
see going on to "another four years of this stuff."
There is, therefore, a large non-exploited market for
higher education consisting of those people who never
learned well in a classroom. Clearly, a different
educational paradigm is required to interest and involve
this segment of the college-capable population.
Recently a very wonderful technological
advance was utilized (by a student) in a class of mine.
We were scheduled to have an exam, and I have a student
who is very dyslexic. Because he is aware of and
knowledgeable about his learning disability, he has
purchased software that will actually read written text
to him. Thus, during the exam, he was able to have a
version of the exam on disk (provided by me) and a hard
copy to record his answers, which allowed him to sit in
the normal classroom with his computer, wearing
earphones, and take the test, without the frustration
and anxiety that a learning disability can often create.
Editor's note: Some faculty help
students believe that each student should play a role in
creating or adapting assignments.
We have used digitizing forms for
students who need to use voice recognition software
instead of hand writing, this can then be either printed
and handed in or e-mailed.
I have two students this semester who
best communicate using a computer in class and email
conferencing because of severe physical limitations.
Technology offers many different ways to
achieve the same end product. I encourage students to
use both the technology they are familiar with and
untried technologies to complete and/or deliver
assignments. I try to be accepting of and to encourage
different formats (e.g., web pages vs. a traditional
research paper) and we use enabling technologies to
support students with learning and/or physical
disabilities. Editorís Note:
This EASI page contains
resources useful for dealing with issues of disability.
The computer allows students to work at
their own pace plus communicate with faculty at their
own level and time.
Editorís Note: Many students,
including students whose native language isnít English,
(or students whose instructor has a native language that
isnít English) are handicapped by the rapid pace of
spoken English. The Web and e-mail
give these people the time to think about what has been
ďsaidĒ and time to decide how to respond.
I make sure that there are a variety of
assignments in every course I teach. Technology allows
me to use lots of on-line experiments and demos, but
also allows me to assign a reading from an on-line
journal, or a discussion of some difficult topic in the
course. In class I use lots of video clips, overheads,
and demos, as well as lecture.
I can use technology, especially the use
of online resources, to create learning tasks that call
on students to work together and to appeal to various
learning styles. I've created a online case study that
incorporates verbal, reflective thinking, written work,
creativity and problem solving skills. I feel this
supports the diversity of learners in my course.
The library provides online workbooks and
I post all lecture notes so that students
can use them to take notes, take notes, or just listen
and pay attention to lecture depending on what works
best for their learning style.
Most of our visual programs are built
from the textbooks. This gives visual learners the
opportunity to learn visually, and the book learners to
learn from the books.
One visually challenged student said he
really appreciated being able to adjust the size of the
text as he read online.
Many physiological processes have been
simulated and/or animated. Use of such tools permits
students, especially visual learners, to gain a greater
appreciation of complex processes. Textbook publishers
often compete with one another in providing such tools.
WebCT has allowed me do much more mixing
of visuals and text and use both as learning tools. It
has also allowed me to post study guides often made in
response to specific requests or confusions. I know that
these serve some students more than others and I am not
taking time out of class to serve just a few but those
few have what they need. E-mail also allows me to learn
about specific needs more than the traditional classroom
did, to respond individually to those needs, and to
broadcast information to all who need it when that looks
One of the biggest issues in
differentiation is not the fact that it needs to occur,
but rather how to manage differentiation. Blackboard has
provided me with the flexibility to offer alternative
assignments, product development, process and grouping
situations that would have been difficult to facilitate
in a class that meets every two weeks or once a week.
For example, with a particular assignment in which
students are expected to examine a critical issue in the
teaching of middle level social studies (instructional
strategies, curriculum, and/or assessment) I have been
able to create a task description that allows students
to present their information in one of three ways --
formal paper, oral presentation, and poster session. On
the Blackboard site I have been able to provide a task
description, assessment criteria for each product, and
supporting materials for each product. Additionally,
students have the flexibility in determining the topic
for which they have interest in developing more
expertise. While this could have been done without
technology, the management of these options would have
been challenging and it is likely that I would be
receiving many questions from students about the
expectations and confusion over what they are expected
to complete. I am also able to set up Topics on the
Discussion Board that allows students to access and
submit information regarding the steps they are taking
to complete the assignment. Often times the students do
a better job of resolving each other's questions. I also
get a sense, if the students access the Discussion
Board, of the common questions or issues being shared.
In music, the technology allows more time
on music and less on theory, and therefore the ones with
good ears or good piano skills experience some
achievement as much as the ones who are best at
abstraction and conceptualization. Editorís Note:
in many fields, there are some students who have an
intuitive grasp of the ultimate practice, and motivation
to work on it, but who are weak in conceptual skills.
These students sometimes benefit from an approach that
is organize around real-world tasks or problems, and
uses those to develop concepts and abstraction.
This library is an example of that approach:
describing the seven principles in terms of ideas that
can immediately be put into practice. Cases first,
The tutorial CD is assigned for the
student to establish individual strengths and
weaknesses. These strengths and weaknesses are then
identified by the individual student and discussed as a
class wherein coping strategies and "tricks" are
Self-tests provide students the means to
assess their individual learning and focus on weaker
Some students are more comfortable asking
questions in e-mail than in person or during class --
others are just the opposite.
Since I work with Blackboard, I see the
advantage of 24/7 access. It also allows students who
need more reinforcement, to go over the PowerPoint
Presentation again, reread the assignments, read the
posted reserve readings. It allows the shy student, time
to formulate his/her thoughts and post them in the
Discussion Board. It allows those students who suffer
from a speech impediment, hearing loss, special needs to
have their ideas carry the same weight as those who
freely speak up in class.
The sorts of electronic means I have been
describing: email, discussion boards, web exchanges --
all of these absolutely provide the means to pull in the
shyest and most private of students. In our school, we
have a large population of students with diagnosed
learning disabilities, and the ability to think through
an issue without the stress of an audience or a time
frame has allowed them to experience the "back and
forth" of discussion with any of the distress that can
accompany that. Further, for students whose
accommodations require "extended deadlines," using email
to extend deadlines, but still get work before the next
class meeting has helped ME to move all students
together from one stage in the curriculum to the next.
Those students who are not as verbal as
others have enjoyed being graded on both in-class and
We provide instruction in dialogue
principles. By using asynchronous discussion boards, a
few males can not simply dominate floor time as
sometimes happens in the fixed-time format of the
traditional classroom. For many on-line discussions,
more participation occurs when punctuation, spelling,
and grammar requirements are suspended. We also give
students some instruction in multicultural issues,
teaching students how to ask questions to
clarify/resolve conflicts and to focus
agreement/disagreement on ideas and not on people.
Within several of my classes, students
are responsible for group projects that require the use
of Internet searches. As I they do these assignments, I
emphasize that they each may have a different searching
technique, some of which may be more useful than others,
and that they should learn from each other in how to
best gain information.
By using a final web-project in my
language classes to replace a traditional final exam,
those students who are not good test-takers, are able to
show what they've learned without the restrictions of a
two-hour time period.
Editorís Note: This survey question only
asked about students. But faculty have diverse talents
and ways of teaching, too. For a
fledgling web site on how different faculty use
technology differently, see ďPersonalizing
Please send your suggestions, especially your TLT ideas,
to Steve Ehrmann (ehrmann @ tltgroup.org).
Return to Table
of Contents for "Seven Principles Collection of TLT Ideas
for Improving Teaching and Learning"